La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 37: Spanish Title Chase Goes to the Wire Between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona
Atletico Madrid were unable to overcome Malaga and Barcelona were similarly frustrated at Elche as the race to win La Liga remained unsettled after the weekend’s action. Real Madrid’s faint title hopes evaporated as they were beaten 2-0 at Celta Vigo. Atleti’s failure to win means the title will be decided next Sunday when they face Barcelona in a showdown at Camp Nou.
Atletico Madrid were held to a draw at the Vicente Calderon by Malaga, leaving Diego Simeone’s side in limbo for another week. Malaga frustrated their opponents in a goalless first half that was scrappy and nervy. The visitors eventually took a surprise lead on 65 minutes, Samuel Garcia sliding the ball home after a mix up between goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and fellow Belgian Toby Alderweireld. The defender made amends nine minutes later, however, heading the equaliser for his first goal for Atletico. Malaga defender Marcos Angeleri was sent off three minutes from time as tempers frayed and Atleti were denied victory as Jose Sosa sent the resulting free kick wide.
A goalless draw at Elche left Barcelona three points behind Atletico and needing a win over the leaders next Sunday to give them their 23rd Primera crown with a superior head-to-head record, having drawn with Atleti earlier in the season. The result guaranteed Elche’s top-flight survival but the game saw yet another below-par display from the Catalans, whose best chance came early on when Andres Iniesta hit the bar with a 20-yard volley. Lionel Messi also squandered a second-half chance, the Argentine hitting his effort straight at goalkeeper Manu Herrera.
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Celta Vigo ended any lingering hopes Real Madrid had of winning La Liga with a 2-0 victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s men at Estadio Balaidos that left Los Blancos five points behind leaders Atletico with just one game left. Ancelotti was without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale was on the bench as Celta took a 41st-minute lead. Sergio Ramos slipped, allowing Charles to run clear on goal before rounding Diego Lopez to slot home. Celta’s second in the 63rd minute also came from an error as Charles seized on Xabi Alonso’s awful backpass to nip in and score.
Real Sociedad were indebted to striker Imanol Agirretxe who grabbed a late equaliser to earn his side a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country. Iker Muniain’s goal from 25 yards gave the hosts the lead to create a party atmosphere at San Mames Barria following Athletic’s qualification for the Champions League. Agirretxe denied their rivals what would have been their first derby win for two years when he struck on 75 minutes.
Villarreal returned to winning ways, thrashing Rayo Vallecano 4-0 at El Madrigal to earn their first win in La Liga for almost a month. Ikechukwu Uche opened the scoring on 22 minutes and Bruno Soriano extended the hosts’ advantage just before half-time. Jonathan Pereira made it three early in the second half before Rayo defender Anaitz Arbilla received a straight red card for bringing down Moi Gomez and Jaume Costa completed the rout.
Levante maintained their fine recent form and are ninth after a 2-0 derby victory against Valencia. Los Granotes continued where they had left off after beating title contenders Atletico by the same score last weekend to go one place above their city rivals. The game looked to be heading for a stalemate until late goals from substitutes Angel Rodriguez and Andreas Ivanschitz earned three points for Levante. Joan Caparros’ men had Pedro Lopez dismissed late on but held on.
Osasuna drew 1-1 at Espanyol, leaving the men from Pamplona needing a miracle if they are to avoid relegation to La Segunda. The Navarrans went behind to a Diego Colotto goal midway through the first half but drew level just before the interval when Javier Acuna scored. Other results mean Espanyol are assured of safety as a disappointing season ended without a victory for the Catalans in any of their final five home games.
Getafe took full advantage of a weakened Sevilla side to earn a vital 1-0 victory in their fight against relegation. With Wednesday’s Europa League final against Benfica on his mind, and a place in the same competition next season guaranteed, Sevilla coach Unai Emery rested many of his first-choice players. Sergio Escudero’s 70th-minute goal was enough to give Getafe a 1-0 victory which meant they climbed to three points clear of the relegation zone with one game remaining.
Almeria boosted their chances of avoiding relegation with a 2-0 victory over fellow Andalusian strugglers Granada at Los Carmenes. The win lifted Francisco Rodriguez’s side three points above the drop zone with their opponents a point behind them ahead of next weekend’s final games. The visitors took the lead with Jose Verza’s penalty after the Almeria man had been fouled by Fran Rico. Granada fought back, but their hopes of taking anything from the game were ended in the 84th minute when Aleix Vidal put Almeria two up with another penalty after Jeison Murillo fouled Ramon Azeez and then saw red for foul and abusive language.
Relegated Real Betis came out on top in a seven-goal thriller against Real Valladolid at the Benito Villamarin to plunge their opponents back into the danger zone after their midweek draw with Real Madrid. Javi Guerra gave the visitors a lead in the first minute, only for Braian Rodriguez to level for Betis five minutes later. Carlos Pena restored Valladolid’s lead soon after the break, but Jorge Molina equalised for Betis within three minutes. Guerra gave Valladolid the lead for the third time from the spot. Ruben Castro made it 3-3 with 13 minutes remaining and it looked as if the points would be shared until Juanfran Moreno gave Betis a stoppage-time winner.